T Nation

Living the Impossible Dream

Keep smashing it mate! I’m enjoying your meticulous approach to training and nutrition. Keep your eyes on the destination but try to enjoy the journey as well!

Aaaaaand were back! Thanks for hanging in there. I see my aspirations for daily updates seems to be a bit unrealistic. My urge to make fun, informative posts are pretty time consuming and I have other projects I like to work on, outside of work and the gym. So lets shoot for a few days a week. As this prep is a learning experience, so it blogging. Though I know this is a “Forum”, I am looking at is a log/blog of this experience. So with that said, lets hop on to what I lost the other night.

I was about to go into my workout for Wednesday, so starting there;

Back, Biceps, and Calves

Rope Straight Arm Pull Down
3X15 I started off with a nice warm up at 10lbs at 15 reps and jumped right in to the sets at 15lbs. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but hear me out. First off, using the rope, I can really pull it down next to my legs instead of in front of them with a straight bar, allowing a better squeeze at pull contraction. Using the lighter weight, I can really concentrate on the lats doing all the work, and even at this low weight, I do start to feel it in my shoulders just a tad by the end.

Close Grip Parallel Grip Lat Pull Down
3X8 after that nice warm up, doing only three sets and 8 reps, I can allow myself to go a little heavier. The close grip is a little funky to get used to, being the first time I did it, but watching some videos, practicing in the mirror and reading up how/which muscles should be active, I really felt this worked well. You really feel the squeeze more in the middle and lower parts of the lats, compared to those rope pull downs feeling it more near the top. I did 3 solid sets at 70lbs, really having to pull in that last one with a strong contraction and as with everything, I do a good slow eccentric on the way up, really feeling the pull on my lats, and almost using my front/anterior delts to fight against it. Mmmmmm, the burn.

T-Bar Row
3X10 and this one I go super low weight. Only 45lbs. I do a medium rest, compared to the medium-long for those pull downs above. Had back surgery years ago and though the weight loss, yoga (we will discuss this in another blog) and general working out has helped, I still am VERY careful of my lower back. Something else I will discuss later. I make sure I keep some tight supported abs with this and just really concentrate on letting my upper/mid back to do the work.

Plate Loaded Row
3X10 Since I go low on the T-Bar, I can rock this one heavier since it is a machine and my chest/back is supported. On here, I did one warm-up set at 90lbs and my working weight was 120lbs. This one feels great and I really love this. Perfect pre-cursor to the next exercise which is…

Seated Cable Row
3X15 Back to the close parallel grip attachment on a different pulley system. Being 15 reps and 15-0 seconds rest, I only do 45lbs on this. Now, normally I won’t defend myself on my low weight lifting, but here, I have to say, watching people at gyms (I go to many) do this, if you set yourself up and pull purely by contracting your should blades together and doing as much as possible to not use any other muscles unlike the full body rows I usually see, you will find the weight will be GREATLY reduced.

Biceps

Straight Barbell Curls
3X8 Did a nice warm-up set of 15 reps with 20lbs, started my working set with 40lbs, but ended up dropping this down to 30lbs to finish it out. I will start out at 30lbs…well, now THIS week, and see how it feels.

Close Grip Preacher Curls
3X10 jumping right into this, I did a 25lbs plate on the machine and really made sure I got a full extension with a strong 2 second squeeze to hold while lowering. Really burned, especially after going a bit heavy on the barbell curls and needed that medium rest in between.

Hammer Curls
3X15 This was the first time I used a Hammer bar. Pictured below this. I slapped on 5lbs on each side and did a good slow rhythm. Helped my arms feel toasted after this. Good thing they were done for the day especially with a short rest.
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Calves

Seated Calf Raises
5X20 no, that isn’t a typo. Set up the machine, which decided to bite my finger (the leg rest went down a bit quick) and you would think this would have been a cue. NOPE, I squeezed it out. no warm-up, just right into it. plopped a 45lbs plate on the machine, and did a slow concentric, a 2 second squeeze at the top and a slow eccentric to a full stretch at the bottom. With only a short break in between sets, needless to say, I DID NOT look forward to going upstairs and doing my 20 minutes of static cardio,

So there ya go, that was last Wednesday. I am currently on a lunch break at work typing this out, eating up some rice and chicken and chugging down water. Leg Day today which will be AWESEOME as always, and hoping I didn’t just jinx myself. Look forward to another update today to catch up on last week and a little tip on the delicious BBQ sauce I use. Stay Tuned! I also plan on revealing something that has been bothering me mentally, so we will dive into that tonight.

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THANK YOU! Glad you are enjoying the blog so far. Funny, this is the first time since I took a change in life that I actually had an end goal in mind. It has always been about the journey, and even if I can’t get the cash up for the surgery, with this prep and training, I will be in the best shape of my life, and even with the skin, I will look great, so it is ALWAYS about the journey. Stay tuned tonight about some of that mental battle I have been having with this.

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Ahhhhh, another Leg Day down. How I love thee…I wish to count the reasons but the main goal of this…

Instead of romanticizing over leg day, lets get a bit back on track. As mentioned, Thursday workouts are basically just a H.I.I.T cardio day, which I mentioned how polar opposite that is for my love of leg day. So all I will say to that is here is what I did Thursday, and this past Sunday for what are now my 2 least favorite days of the week.

Let me paint the picture. I walk into my gym, say “Hi” to the lovely front desk people, scan my card, put my keys on the key wall (EVERY gym should have one of these…wise up gyms!) grab a towel from the basket, and instead of heading around the corner to what I have known to be a happy place, I head up stairs to the cardio area. It’s like those times your parents tell you that you are heading to get a happy meal…but FIRST, we need to go to the doctor for shots. The main difference, after this, no happy meal for me. Literally, another reason to despise these days, they are LOW meal days. No exciting meals waiting for me when I get home…again COMPLETELY opposite to a delicious post workout leg day meal like I enjoyed today. I digress…so I head upstairs to the hoards of people with their headphones on, books in front of them, running on tread mills. I make my way over to the elliptical machine and with my headphones on, like always, surprisingly, listening to an audio book, actually, this one at the moment…

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I set the machine to level 9 resistance and embark on this journey into Hell. 5 minutes of a light cardio, getting the heart beat up, in preparation for 8 intervals at resistance 15, going 20 seconds as hard as I can go, backing it back down to level 9 for 2 minutes. Needless to say, that 5 minutes seems to be the FASTEST 5 minutes of your life, and those 16 minutes and 40 seconds (check my math there) all feel like that last minute you are staring at the clock when you were a kid waiting for the bell to ring. I never thought 15 minutes of light cardio (really my last 2 minute break plus 13 if you are checking my math from before) was never more bitter sweet. I’m a huge fan of Sour Patch Kids, and never in my life would I think 15 minutes on an elliptical would EVER be compared to those sour-sweet morsels of pure pallet delight. Nonetheless, there is my low meal cardio days.

I am thnking with updates this week, by next week, if I finish out describing the weeks, I can start doing quick updates on weight increases and experiences and really get into the nitty gritty of this prep, so I will leave Friday workout for Wednesday nights update. Instead, let me discuss what I mentioned yesterday. Whats on my noggin.

I have had this discussion with my super supportive girlfriend and she helped a lot, but for those of you who have been through this, tell me how you coped. Recently, I can’t help but check out the guys in the gym and observe their physique and compare myself. Funny, because I never did this before. In college, I was a music performance major, Bass Trombone being my major instrument. Through my college years and later playing professional on some pretty amazing gigs including some Broadway shows, I never compared my playing to anyone, I just had a concept of the sound I wanted in my head, practiced hours upon hours, and my only competition was myself, knowing where I am at and pushing to the next level I know I can get to. I mastered, at least in music, judging myself, in a non-judgmental way, and where I was at was neither great, nor bad, just where I am now, and if I work at it, I will get to where I want to go. I never had an end goal in mind, I just had things I wanted to do with my playing, worked at them, did them, and moved onto the next thing to experience. It was something a lot of students colleagues wished they could inherit.

When I started this journey to be healthier and lose weight a few years ago, I always laughed because people asked me what my goal was, and truthfully, I never had one. I just wanted to be healthier, happier, be able to shop wherever I wanted and hopefully, like myself more than I did. Now that there is a goal in mind, the doubts are creeping in. I catch myself looking at the other guys in the gym, and instead of seeing them and taking mental notes of what I like and don’t like so I can sculpt my own body to have those characteristics, I see them thinking how much closer they are to my end goal than I am, and they aren’t working towards being on a bodybuilding stage. I look at myself in the mirror and still see that heavy guy and think, how could I POSSIBLY get to a body building physique. Even worse, I check back on photos I took at the shows I went to where @robstein was competing, looking at those guys, and then think, WOW, for my height, I have a LONG way to go. I know I need to get out of my head, and this is where I need to lean on my support system of my girlfriend, my coach and his wife, and my friends who support this, and just push on. I am convinced, once I get this surgery, and all that extra skin is gone, I can easier see the potential and possibly see how close I am, or at the very least, see where I need to go to get my body to the shape I want it. I do have a good idea in my mind of what I want to look like This shines in how Rob set up my workouts. I need more shoulder, lats and chest. I also need more traps, but that is coming along. They all are. Surprisingly, I am seeing a change and can’t wait to post update pics for all of you! So, with having said all that, this is still a major block in my mind and though nutrition has been on point, the urge to not be on point due to these thoughts is strong. A habit of finding comfort in food is something I thought I got rid of, but apparently, it will always be there. Maybe I can replace that with cardio…haha

ANYWAY, a quick update, I started this whole deal at 210lbs, and after my first week, so last Sunday, my scale weight was 207lbs. I really need to stop daily weighing myself because I see it is up to 208lbs, but by Sunday, I may be at 205lbs, so who knows. Keeping my head down and on the plan and see where it goes. Thanks as always for reading and I will put up another update tonight!

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My advice regarding the scale weight is: don’t expect a linear progression. My personal experience has shown that my body doesn’t work in “days,” rather it works in averages. It’s the trend that matters. Take the past 3 days and average them to get a better idea of where your wieght is. I usually go up a lb or two suddenly before I go down. (A quick perusal of Rob’s wieght log shows a similar phenomenon.) also you will see little “blips” up or down… Your lowest day of the week will probably be an outlier, until you hit it as an average a week or two later.

Regarding the comparisons to others: there will always be people that are closer to your goal than you… The thing is, they have different goals, and most are just as far from their’s, as you are from your’s. Keep the perspective of where you have come from and what you have overcome. You can derive a lot of power from a quick glance in the rearview.

Lastly, for the smart guys, this is a long-game. If you make very quick progress, you will find it’s much harder to maintain. Slow and steady, my friend; slow and steady.

Keep busting your ass; we are rooting for you.
Have an awesome day!
P.s. Cardio gets easier the leaner you get… One day you will say to yourself: “I can’t believe that used to be hard!”

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You have a really poetic way of writing. Very refreshing.

I really like this from FK:

It can’t be closer to the truth IMO.

You have strength @HeraWynn1, you have shown that. Now show that you also have endurance and persistence.

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You are doing well mate!, i too tend to admire other people in the gym and how much closer they are but just remember soon you will look just like them!, and with the work you put in i wouldn’t be surprised if you surpass them. Everyones different and some people have great genetics and even if they do stuff all in and outside of the gym get a great physique. However you work hard and hard work wins.

I haven’t chimed in here yet, but I figure I have some pretty decent advice based on my background.

Bodybuilding contests are filled with all sorts of competitors. You have people who do it on a whim, you have people who do it on a dare, you have people truly “live the lifestyle” day in and day out and have been on years-long quests to continually improve and one day hoist that first place trophy, and you have people who finally got in shape and want to show that they’re comfortable in their own skin.

IMO, with my years of competing, judging and coaching, I can honestly tell you that the people who excel at this sport are the ones who have laid the groundwork before ever thinking they needed to “don the speedo.” @BrickHead trained his whole life (since his teen years) before ever stepping onstage and doing very well in the process. I myself trained for 15 years before I ever thought I MIGHT POSSIBLY do OKAY and not embarrass myself in the process. My client Mike, who absolutely destroyed his first show (and several others), also had years and years of gut busting training before he even entertained the idea of pursuing it in a competitive nature. The reason you see this pattern, is because building muscle takes years of work, No matter your genetics, or how perfect your training and diet, it’s a crazy slow process.

My point is, I want you to consider what you’re going to get out of the experience. If it’s an accomplishment to get up there, after your extreme weight loss, I certainly understand your reasoning. But if you’re already comparing yourself with guys who have been training for muscle growth, for who knows how many years, and most of these guys you see in your gym would almost certainly get smoked on a competitive stage,… well, just keep some healthy perspective. Heck, even prepping Rob for his shows, I would always remind him as we discussed what he needs to work on, that he’s still a relative newb in terms of how long he’;s been banging away at the weights compared to some of the real freaks that populate contest line ups.

Understand that I say this with nothing but the best of intentions. I’ve sat on many a judging panel and watched as the MC announced someone who had lost a ridiculous amount of weight to “get here today!”, and while everyone applauds and truly, unquestionably respects what they have accomplished, I have yet to see such a wonderful backstory have any influence on placings as they go up against classes full of heavily muscled and contest shredded competitors, who have almost killed themselves the previous 16-20 weeks, not to mention years and years just laying foundations, to get there that day. There was a thread a while back about viewing a bodybuilding contest as a serious competitive endeavor or a place to show off your individual achievements. It was a pretty good back and forth if someone can find and link it.

S

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Yes, a crazy slow process, and with that, involving such gut-wrenching effort day in and day out. Hence the reason I had a love-hate relationship with bodybuilding. I wanted to be a bodybuilder for a long time, but throughout life my training was inconssitent for long stretches of time because bodybuilding is so difficult and time consuming.

I would have loved to have continued competing had my life changed quite a bit when I had a kid twelve weeks ago.

Anyway, who do I think should compete? I don’t think someone should compete only if they are a genetically gifted freak or have some more muscle to build. After all, many people have made improvements in muscle mass and leanness from show to show, indicating they didn’t wait for god knows how long to start competing.

I think one should compete when he looks like a bodybuilder. That’s it, plain and simple. Can one look in the mirror and see a bodybuilder? Does one get taken for a bodybuilder by people out and about, even while wearing loose-fitting clothing. When I started having people asking me about working out while wearing winter clothing, I knew I had made the progress necessary to step onstage and not look like I fit in. If you fit in, you belong there, even if you do not place in the top three.

One should keep in mind that the commitment to four to five month prep (time depending on how much weight one has to lose) is tremendous! Although this is a pastime, it’s certainly one that doesn’t seem like that’s all it is. One has to have a certain work schedule (ya punch in, ya punch out, no unpredictability) and understanding people around. And towards the end of prep, which I consider to be the last four to six weeks of a prep, the whole damn thing seems near unbearable. So a good questions to ask oneself before they make an attempt at this are, “If I look like a bodybuilder, will I be alright doing all this?” and, “If I show up not looking like a bodybuilder, and just trying it out for the experience, and definitely not placing, appearing out of place to myself and the audience, how will I feel i doing so?”

At the end of the day, it’s still a pastime. So if one doesn’t do well, it’s not as if there will be some traumatic experience afterwards. Well, there shouldn’t be.

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So, @HeraWynn1 … how’s the training been going? Any changes?

Some valid points for sure. Just a thought, for some folks, getting on stage might not necessarily be a way to “show off” personal achievements, but a way to achieve something they never thought possible. It might be easier to have a mindset of competing to look like a bodybuilder when training has been part of someone’s life for so long before they consider it, or if they at least lived a life of weight not being a major issue.

When I did my first show, I wanted to look like I belonged, but the major driving force behind my decision to compete was it was something I never, ever thought I could do. Currently 33, didn’t step foot in a gym until 25. I was very fat in elementary school and routinely got made fun of for it. Eventually I lost some of that, but was never skinny, or athletic, and was overweight. From ages 23-25 was having trouble going up the stairs without breaking a sweat, and had to hold my breath to tie my shoe. 205lbs at 5’4”, none of which was muscle. So, the prospect of stepping on stage was a way for me to achieve something I never thought I could have, and physique I never thought I could have, even if it wasn’t good enough to win, which it wasn’t, it was still an incredible personal achievement that I chose to do not to show off, but for myself.

I’m speaking with @HeraWynn1 about the prospect of competing, reflecting on his journey to get here and the relentless two and a half year prep he’s already been on, I can think of no better way to go from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite. Whether it’s board shorts or posing trunks, placement or no placement, when the day does come eventually, it’ll be a hell of an accomplishment and an incredible day.

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I’ll go back to your show at Murray Bergtruam HS in Manhattan. There was a kid, maybe 15, that was skinny. Skinny skinny, and he was on stage, and he didn’t belong, clearly.

What was the point?

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Yeah, I remember that kid, and his neon green posing trunks. For him, who knows. Could have been one of his parents convincing him to do it, maybe the vision he had of himself was different than reality. At 14-15 years old in his condition, I can’t think of a good reason, doesn’t mean there wasn’t one for him, just means it wasn’t obvious to anyone else watching. At that age, I don’t think he should have been up there, but I think every situation is unique and should be considered on its own.

I agree with previous posters that not everyone should get up there. For example, the gym bro who half asses everything and has no idea what to do for a show. Here’s a good example.

At my last show, the WNBF Northeast America, there were 7 guys in physique. The top 3 looked great, the bottom 4 looked completely average dudes, about 12-15% body fat, who literally said things like “I decided to do this two weeks ago. No I didn’t have a coach. You can have a coach? Not drinking was hard. I wasn’t sure what to do with the diet. Wait, I needed to tan? Can I borrow some of your tan?” I seriously gave two guys extra dream tan because I always have plenty extra, and they were completely unprepared. No coach, no idea, no clue. They looked half decent on stage, but certainly not competitive at all. Even though they had no work ethic and were completely clueless, because they have a physique more geared towards acceptable stage condition, does that give them more of a right to get on stage, compared to someone who puts in the work for years, has a coach, changes their life and prioritizes their prep over everything else? IMO, no it does not. This is very individualized.

Also at the NE, was a guy who competed in bodybuilding, lost more than 125lbs over the course of time to get on stage, was big all his life. He was not super conditioned or a contender for the win, had some extra skin, but he looked good, did a hell of a lot of work to get there (more than most!), and training/nutrition is his life. He loves bodybuilding. Should he be denied the right to get on stage for some saggy skin or muscles that aren’t as developed as someone who’s been lean longer? IMO, definitely not. It was a pleasure to compete with him. His reasons were his own, it was his celebration of his hard work, and he’s a genuinely great guy who’s still competing and improving.

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I agree with you Rob, completely. That being said, my previous post still stands. What is @HeraWynn1 doing in regards to nutrition and training these days? Has the overall goal changed or the potential of surgery?

Not only was it interesting to read about this kind of transformation (big guy becoming a smaller guy becoming a muscular guy) since I had the opposite transformation (emaciated guy becomes muscular, becomes too big from bulking, becomes muscular again), but his schedule seemed so different from my own (with regards to work, commute, training times, etc). I was actually looking forward to reading more…and the thread kind of died.

I really hope he isn’t disheartened. I’ve thought about starting my own log on here hundreds on times, but never have for fear of being unable to deal with the inevitable criticism. I look pretty good, but I don’t have a goal of getting on stage. He does, and that is commendable to me – it takes a different level of self-worth and courage to do that.

Anyway, I hope he’s still going strong, even if he’s not posting about it. At the end of it all, bodybuilding and fitness are all about YOU as an individual and not what anyone on the internet thinks.

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I wouldn’t let this stop you, as long as you’ve got an open mind about training and aren’t a total tool about it, most folks simply add some constructive criticism, then give you attaboys when you start meeting your goals, even some of the folks that have completely random/unprogrammed/nonsensical training tend to get the benefit of the doubt as long as they aren’t total knobs about it, ha.

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Well said! @IronAndMetal, definitely start a log man, it’s a blast. I too was hesitant about starting one years ago, but like @Despade wrote, as long as you’ve got a positive mindset, it’s a good way to hold yourself accountable and share your journey with a community of people who are like minded. When I started my first log, I was most definitely not in good shape, I rarely received any comments, but over time really started enjoying it. You may get some criticism but it’s all with good intentions. One great benefit of a log is getting feedback and objective opinions on your physique, training, etc. Go for it man!

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wow
That looks great…